Monday, November 24, 2008

International GIS Day 2008, November 19: Program in Nepal

GIS Society of Nepal organized a one day work shop on the occasion of International GIS Day on November 19, 2008. About 150 persons attended the workshop. Nepal GIS Society had also completed a one week GIS training for the beginners, and the trainees were given their certificates on this day. On this GIS Day, five papers were presented (please see the program at the end).

These were interesting topics. After the brief introductory remarks and official nomination of program chair, by the NEGISS President Dr. Krishna Prasad Paudel, the paper presentation session began. Prof. Dr. Upendra Man Malla former Department Head of Geography, Tribhuwan University, and also a former member of National Planning Commission, chaired the program. Dr Krishna Paudel, the NEGISS President is a Professor at the Tribhuwan University.

Dr. Narendra Khanal's paper outlined the role of Remote Sensing and GIS in disaster management, especially in flood hazards. He is a well known TU Geography Professor.

Dr Krishna Pahari presented the results of Poverty Mapping project conducted by WFP/Nepal. Interesting presentation indeed though the work was completed some two years ago in 2006. This WFP work is a reference work for Poverty Mapping in Nepal. Dr Pahari worked for Care/Nepal earlier.

Then Bhola Dhakal presented his work on Rara National Park. He focused mainly on land use dynamics of the Rara National Park area. Bhola is an active member of Nepal GIS Society. The maps he showed in the presentation were of very high quality.

Indra Sharan KC presented a proposal or a set of suggestions for the Nepali decadal Census planned to take place in 2011 based on his geo-referenced population census survey of Pawai Gamde VDC in Syangja district, conducted by the local development user groups. His recommendation for the census was "Plan and take geo-referenced Census for entire Nepal in 2011". His argument was that once the households or dwelling units are fixed on ground with GPS coordinates, the country would benefit from a host of useful products and analyses despite the changes in admin units. This would make the census data meaningful for Nepal's state structuring and federal republic agenda. Otherwise if the census is taken from the reference of existing VDC and district boundary, it will be difficult to generate summary information and make adjustment for the new admin or political units created by the Constituent Assembly and the new constitution. Central Bureau of Statistics, the main census organization, had taken census at the settlement level for the 1991 census on the recommendation of NPC Decentralization Support Project and Nepali Planners. Indra Sharan had served as GIS Advisor for the UNDP's NPC Decentralization and Participatory District Development Program (PDDP) developing the NPC GIS Facility and District GIS based on the concepts of settlements.

Shanker Raj Pathak from MoLD presented his work on settlement mapping at the Ministry of Local Development (MoLD). The concept of settlement mapping was initially developed at the National Planning Commission’s GIS Facility which implemented GIS based on this premises in 20 districts under "NPC Decentralization Support Project" a flagship UNDP program executed by NPC, which after some time became "Participatory District Development Program". Later the program was cloned for Ministry of Local Development and named "Local Governance Program", under the same UNDP's support where Shanker joined newly to take up the responsibility of transferring and applying the mapping principles and concepts from NPC to MoLD, a very interesting and challenging job.

Mr. Thakur Uprety presented GIS in use by Nepal Police. His presentation covered GIS applications from rescue operations to crime and mob analysis, which the audience appreciated a lot. Due to security reasons, Thakur Uprety did not divulge some of the information, logic and data sets. One can only say those products and services were of great benefits for the Police Organization.

At the end Professor Upendra Man Malla shed light on his experience beginning 1950s till this day - from very small area mapping and surveying with limited budget and tools to present day enrichment of geographic science and technology. He then presented certificates to the GIS for beginners trainees and cheered all.

The role Paul Lundberg, late Dr Harka Gurung and Prof. Upendra Malla played for the initiation of settlement based census was lauded in the program. Dr Hark Gurung was a noted geographer and planner of Nepal who died on a helicopter crash of Sept 23, 2007. Prof. Malla retired as a professor but is active in development work. Mr. Lundberg was Chief Technical Advisor for the UNDP's Decentralization Project.

The Program is given below:
10:30 – 11:00 Registration and Tea

11:00 – 11:10 Welcome and Introduction about the programme
Dr. Krishna Poudel, President

11:10 – 11:40 Paper presentation by Dr. Narendra Raj Khanal

GIS/RS for Flood Hazard Mapping and Disaster Preparedness

11:40 – 12:10 — Paper presentation by Dr. Krishna Pahari, Monika Shrestha, Siemon Hollema

GIS for Food Security and Poverty Monitoring

12:10 – 12:40 Paper presentation by Bhola N. Dhakal

Role of GIS on Monitoring and Analysis of Natural Resources for Protected Area Management; A case of Rara National Park and Buffer Zone, Mountain Region, Mid Western Nepal

12:40 – 13:30 Tea and Snacks

13:30 – 14:00 Paper presentation by Indra Sharan KC
Some Recommendations for National Census 2011 from a Geo-Referenced Population Survey of a VDC in Syangja District

14:00 – 14:30 Paper presentation by Shakar Raj Pathak
Grass-Root Level Mapping

14:30 - 15:00 Paper Presentation by Thakur Uprety
GIS at Nepal Police


14:30 – 14:45 Tea

14:45 – 15:00 Remarks about the Training and GIS Activities

15:00 – 15:30 Certificate Distribution and Closing

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ADB grant in millions to boost local govt bodies

ADB grant in millions to boost local govt bodies

Himalayan News Service
Kathmandu, October 22:

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has come forward to help Nepal improve local governance
and promote community development. The international body has pledged a grant worth $106.3 million.
The aid will be disbursed in three phases. It will support the active engagement of communities in local governance, improve resource management and dispensation of service. Local government agencies will play a key role in implementation of the much-needed project.
Perhaps, the ADB grant could not have come at an opportune time for the Maoist-led government, which is gradually veering towards a federal structure.
In fact, the Three-Year Interim Plan (fiscal 2008-2010) has put forth decentralisation as the
primary means for good governance.
“It will support the government’s move. Local bodies can be strengthened as it will prompt them to take several community initiatives. There is a greater focus on inclusive development as well,” said Gambhir Bhatta, a senior official, South Asia department, ADB.
The programme will undertake novel ways of monitoring local finances by incorporating gender equality and social inclusion indicators; administering safety nets and social assistance
programmes to the underprivileged; budgeting grants to key sectors like education, health and agriculture. There will be a greater coordination among the districts.
Altogether the ambitious scheme is estimated to cost $470 million. The government has pledged $260.8 million for it.
A follow-up ADB programme grant, amounting to $50 million, is envisaged for a three-year period (2012-15).
It will largely focus on policy reforms.

Source: The Himalayan Times

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dr. Sundar Mani Dixit Says: Let maoists implement the people centric development policies for Nepal"

In a recent Nepali Congress Central Working Committee Meeting, Former PM Girija Prasad Prasad Koirala sated that they should be ready for the formation of next government as the Maoist lead government is going to come down soon.

Many people thought at some point as usual, Girija without power is a real danger. Nepali congress has ruled country for more than 80% of the time since the first democratic move that established a multiparty system of government in 1990.

However, there are persons, who think that Maoists should be given oportunity to implement people centric policies, because no other parties are so clear as they are in this - be it the state structuring, federalism or abolishment of monarcy in Nepal.

Dr Sundar Mani Dixit, a medical doctor spoke on this recently. The following news is taken from telegraphnepal.com


Nepal: Let Maoist implement people centric polices, Dr. Dixit
TGW
Dr. Sundarmani Dixit, a renowned civil society member has said that the Maoists were the last hope for the people of the country for they are the only ones who could uplift the downtrodden people of Nepal.
“The Maoists should be given the responsibility to handle the State Affairs for at least five decades in order to implement their people centric policies”, Mr. Dixit continued.



Dr. Dixit is a medical practitioner and is presumed to be excessively close to the Indian establishment and currently a proxy-Maosit.
“With the Maoists’ people centric policies implemented, we can build what we call a New Nepal”, he continued.
Mr. Dixit was speaking at a program in Lalitpur District on Saturday, September 6, 2008, organized by the Kathmandu-Ramechhap Republican Liaison Forum- a Maoist party affiliate.

Agni Prasad Sapkota, a Maoists senior leader speaking on the occasion said that unless Nepal becomes a Peoples’ Republic, liberating the downtrodden population was almost impossible.

“The Political revolution continues however, along with the political changes the economic, cultural and social change should also continue”, Sapkota added.

2008-09-07 08:28:36

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nepal's New PM Prachanda & The challenges ahead

Nepal's Constituency Assembly elected Puspa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" as the Primeminister of Nepal on August 15, 2008. His background: 10 years revolution (February, 1996-February 2006) that saw 13000 Nepalese lives lost and many disappeared and unknown against the 240 years old Feudal Monarchy and failed parliament. Nepal is already declared a Democratic Republic of Nepal on 26 May, 2008. King moved to a secluded residence in the forest. The Maoists who fought from the Forest have entered the city. With Prachanda's election as Primeminister, a new era in Nepal begins. Many people still fear that the Maoists may begin a communist republic type of governance in Nepal. But there are others who say that the Maoists are well aware of the 21st century reality - the globalization, humanrights and respect for plurality.

There was the doubt about what would happen in the peace process if the maoists were denied the power that they were chosen by the people. With the election of the PM from the Maoist party, there seems to be the end of the conflict that was initiated by the Maoists over so many dissatisfactions.

Here is an news article from the BBC.

Prachanda: The challenges ahead
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Prachanda has a massive task ahead of him
The elevation of Nepal’s chief Maoist, the leader of the former rebels, Prachanda, to the prime ministership is something he could barely have dreamt of just three years ago.

By the early 1980s, with political parties still banned, “The Fierce One” had abandoned his job as a teacher and was operating underground as an outlaw.

Not until 2006 did he appear in public again, after the end of a decade-long Maoist insurgency that cost 13,000 lives.

Whether he retains his war name or reverts to being Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the new prime minister has a massive task ahead of him.

The euphoria surrounding the restoration of democracy two years ago; the successful elections this April; the historic end of the monarchy shortly afterwards - these have been milestones.

The last two years have been full of historic symbolism as the old Hindu kingdom became a secular republic, sweeping away all references to its past, to the delight of some and the dismay of others.

But at the same time, state authority has crumbled so much that many Nepalis are in utter despair.

Squabbling

A sense of anarchy prevails nationwide, so much so that mention of the phrase “the government” tends to elicit scornful sniggers.

Crime and violence have spiralled. The slightest grievance brings people onto the street to demonstrate or blockade. For example, eastern Nepal has been at a complete standstill for six days, called by transport workers in protest at the murder of a bus driver and a broad lack of security.

Not only that. The shortages of petrol, diesel, kerosene and gas are beyond measure because the authorities won’t balance the financial books.

There is severe hunger in the hills. There are power cuts at the height of the rainy season. The police appear unable to do anything other than arrest demonstrating Tibetans.

The historic end of the monarchy has been a milestone
The politicians including the Maoists have largely ignored all this, squabbling about ministry allocation for weeks on end and scarcely acknowledging ordinary people’ problems.

Luckily most Nepalis are adept at getting on with their lives despite their rulers, so the country has not imploded.

As prime minister, Prachanda will also have to draw together a country which for the past year-and-a-half has been displaying new and worrying fissures along ethnic and regional lines.

As a man who comes from the hills but moved to the southern flatlands as a child, he is only too aware of the widening rift in the south between people of hill origin and the Madhesis -southerners ethnically close to neighbouring Indians who have been campaigning against their marginalisation since late 2006.

Although the new president and his deputy are both Madhesis, the community’s sense of grievance persists.

Violence in the south-east bubbles away, with shadowy rebel or criminal groups proliferating and people dying each week.

In July a Roman Catholic priest was killed by a militant Hindu group waging what it called an “anti-Muslim campaign”.

In an ethnically complex society, many more regional groups are emerging and clamouring, mostly peacefully, for inclusion.

Perhaps the biggest question is how the Maoists can transform themselves into a party of government.

‘Switzerland of Asia’

After the Maoists’ surprise but convincing victory in the April elections, their deputy leader admitted to having some “sleepless nights” given the prospect of running the country.

Having promised, extravagantly, to make Nepal into the “Switzerland of Asia”, they have encouraged high expectations.

Nepalese traditionalists worry that the former rebels retain a totalitarian bent.

This is a party which still sports Stalin as an icon and praises him - alongside Mao, of course. It has not renounced violence.

There is a widening rift between people of hill origin and the Madhesis
Less than two years ago Prachanda told the BBC Nepali Service: “As a party struggling for the hard-working people, we should not torture anyone, even when someone needs to be eliminated.”

Since the election, many accounts have emerged of the way Maoist cadres cheated at the ballot boxes in far-off places, and in May party members killed a businessman inside a military camp.

Yet now could also be the time when the Maoists are given a chance to prove themselves: to show they are serious about the social transformations in whose name they went to war.

They have a very strong presence in the villages, and many now long for them to be able to build on the starts they have made at eroding caste and gender discrimination.

They also promise a more equitable system of land ownership.

This will be a test of other politicians, too: of whether they can shake off their ingrained habit of trying to do down their rivals and prevent others from getting credit for change.

There are still further challenges ahead.

Many people whose near and dear ones died or disappeared during the conflict are awaiting truth and justice. They will want the authorities to provide it.

On a different matter, having a Maoist prime minister may help resolve the future of the 19,000 Maoist former combatants still in camps as part of the UN-assisted peace process.

With a new prime minister and president at last in place, one more task can also get properly under way - the writing of a new constitution by the huge assembly elected in April.

Hitherto its members have complained that the body is being marginalised by the usual coterie of establishment politicians.

There has been enough talking. The work must now begin.

Friday, August 15, 2008

NEPAL: Analysts warn of rising ethnic tensions

Nepal has more than 100 castes and similar number of languages. The homegeniety of a caste exists only at community level. There are a mix of communities of different castes interspersed. At a larger say a smallest planning unit level, the castes are mixed to form a very heteregenous society. Newest Republic, Nepal now faces a plethora of demands from each caste/ethnic group.

IRIN, a UN news Agency has covered some essence. This is given below as it is. Thanks to IRIN News.

NEPAL: Analysts warn of rising ethnic tensions

KATHMANDU, 14 August 2008 (IRIN) - Failure to address the grievances of Nepal’s various indigenous and ethnic groups may result in further ethnic tension, warn analysts.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Thousands of Pahade families have been displaced over the past year due to commnal tensions between the Madhesi and Pahade

Speaking to IRIN in the capital, Kathmandu, they said the country’s top political parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) must prioritise the formation of the much-anticipated State Restructure Commission, a key national body that may help to address the federalist demands of diverse ethnic communities.

There has been a growing trend of ethnic and indigenous groups calling for autonomy both in the Terai (fertile southern plains), and in hill areas particularly in the east.

In July several ethnic-based organisations declared autonomy in three of the most important districts of the eastern Terai - Morang, Jhapa and Sunsari.

The Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) of the Limbus ethnic group claimed a region they called the “Limbuwan State”, while another ethnic community - the Dhimal - named it “Kochila”. An alliance of nine indigenous groups known as the Terai Indigenous Janjati Organisation (TIJO) has claimed a region which they call “Morang Autonomous State”.

The Kirants

Other indigenous and ethnic groups like the Tharus and Kirants are also emerging strongly, with the latter involved in armed activities to press for autonomy.

Local human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reported that a group called the Kirant Janbadi Workers Party (KJWP) had attacked police posts and government offices and destroyed important documents.

According to human rights activists, the KJWP continues to threaten local aid workers, civilians and traders in the Bhojpur and Khotang districts of eastern Nepal, where they need the group's permission to operate in so-called “Kirant Land”.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Mistrust between different groups is growing due to ethnic politics that is taking a dangerous turn

Ethnic tensions

“Ethnic fundamentalism is in danger of growing and naturally giving birth to communalism, which is detrimental to national unity,” Kapil Shrestha, an independent political analyst told IRIN, adding that mistrust and hatred between the various ethnic communities was apparent, and having an impact on livelihoods and security.

Over the past few years pro-Madhesi armed groups, which have been calling for a single Madhesi province, have been openly campaigning against the people of hill origin, known as the Pahade. The Limbus, Kirants and most indigenous communities (Janjatis) come under the Pahade label.

The Madhesi and Pahade communities have often been involved in communal tensions fuelled by ethnic-based political groups: In September 2007 in Kapilvastu District, the killing of a local Madhesi leader by unknown assailants sparked serious violence between the two groups.

“The armed ethnic groups believe that only raising arms will solve problems, and are using their strategy of fear among civilians,” independent conflict analyst Shovakar Budhathoki said, noting that a dangerous trend was that armed criminal groups were also taking advantage of a weak security situation and exploiting ethno-political issues to provoke communal hatred.

Government officials fear for their safety
Photo: Sagar Shrestha/IRIN
Villagers in shock and grief over violence in southeast Nepal

Local government officials in the Village Development Committees (VDCs), the lowest level of government administration, have faced constant threats from the armed groups.

Frustrated about the lack of state protection, local VDC officials are shutting down their offices and holding strikes to pressure the government to pay serious attention to their security. Around 17 Civil Servants Unions in Sunsari and Siraha districts (eastern Nepal) have been regularly holding strikes.

Government employees said they would return to work only if the government provided security guarantees. “The officials are too afraid to work in the VDCs as the government has been unable to do anything, despite our constant requests,” said Khadag Poudel, president of Bhojpur Civil Servants Organisation.

The District Administration Office (DAO) of Bhojpur explained that although the government had given them assurances of their security, they had remained unwilling to return to work.

Analysts say the government needs to hold talks with the various ethno-political groups and respond to their demands.

Meanwhile, civilians are bearing the brunt of the strikes, armed activities and violence at a time when food and fuel prices are rising.

nn/ds/cb

Source: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=79818
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning

[ENDS]

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nepal under US radar: Interesting article

Yesterday's post consisted of an interesting article from a political analyst of India from their website www.indiareacts.com.

Today another interesting story woven by a Nepali political analyst from www.telegraphnepal.com. It is hard to believe in some of the articles in this portal. However, it is interesting to read.

All that said, will there be Nepali politicians standing on their own feet, ever? The old genre of Nepali politicians is experienced without much academic hardwork in their lives. However, the new ones are definitely the ones who at least had been to the college and university - most of them. May be this is the reason the government should be run by new and young ones with the support from the senior peers.

Here is the thought provoking article from the Telegraph Nepal

US scanner
TGW Analyst
Kathmandu: If what the analysts have understood of Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the politics of consensus that have been agreed upon by the Nepali Congress, the UML, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, MJF, and the Maoists might catapult in a day or two.

If Koirala concludes that the four party consensuses is to sideline his prospects of becoming the next Prime Minister, he would definitely, as is his habit, begin playing destructive politics as he is presumed to be the number one player of “destructive politics” of Nepal.

Those who have seen Koirala from close quarters say that he will approve the four party consensuses arrived Monday afternoon on condition that the four parties also provide him the Chair of the Prime Minister.

If denied, what is hundred percent sure that he will twist the arms of the UML and MJF in a surreptitious manner forcing these parties to change their current stances in his favor.

Koirala can’t stomach the Maoists coming to power and this is what has been agreed upon in Delhi-the Mecca of Nepali politics-in between Koirala and his “Indian masters”.

To boot, Koirala is a conspiratorial player as well or else why should a Prime Minister who has lost his political standing back home and remained in a state wherein his resignation had also been accepted by the President should exhibit his utter excitement to visit Colombo?

The idea was to meet his real “masters and mentors” in Colombo or in New Delhi and seduce the Indian leaders so that they ultimately approved Koirala’s claim for the post of the next Prime Minister of Nepal.

And in effect he did meet his Indian counterpart-the India proxy Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh right in Colombo and convinced the latter that the Maoists were still “bad boys” who could not be trusted for some time to come in the power structure of Nepal.

The Indian Prime Minister got stunned, reports say, when Koirala appraised him about the likelihood of Maoists’ staging an “October Revolution” of the type and dimension of Russia if denied power this time.

Power insatiability in Koirala grew to the extent that he even told the same “spine-tingling story” to the US Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Boucher who was right in Colombo during the SAARC Summit, and presented the Maoists case to him in such a way that Boucher too got horrified.

No wonder then the US dignitary said of the Maoists that “even if the Maoists form a government in Nepal, the US will have no objection as such”.

However, he made it abundantly clear that the “Maoists were still under the US scanner”.

This perhaps caps the possibility of the Maoists jumping to Singh Durbar if Koirala’s schemes go smoothly.

The word “still under the US scanner” do implies that the US preference would be a government in Nepal sans the Maoists.

The statement made by Richard Boucher that “We don’t have any objection” if the Maoists come to power is just a diplomatic language to keep the Maoists in good stead. However, the inner meaning is that, analysts presume, the US would take some time to watch the “activities of the Maoists prior to the party of the ex-rebels come to power. But then yet one has to admit that the US has some what softened its stance as regards the Maoists.

Look what he says of the Maoists in Colombo: “Though the US didn’t want to alienate the Maoists, they were still closely watching the party, specially their threats to carry out another movement”.

This is what has been told by Aditya Baral, Koirala’s political advisor to the press men in Colombo. Baral accompanied Koirala when Richard Boucher met with Koirala in Colombo.

A close look at what Boucher says of the Maoists does indicate that the US possesses a sort of soft corner for the Maoists for the word “alienate the Maoists” explains this.

But concurrently, the US is some what suspicious of the Maoists inner “intents”.

That the US is still concerned with the Maoists political overtures becomes abundantly clear from what the US dignitary says.

Let’s analyze the US fresh consideration as regards the Maoists from what has been aired by Mr. Boucher in Colombo.

First, the US would not mind the Maoists steering the nation.

Second, the US would want to see the Maoists paraphernalia wearing democratic clothes prior to swinging to power structure in Nepal.

Third, the US was still not confident of the Maoists that the latter if in power would act in a manner that is demanded of them in a fully democratic set up.

Fourth, the US has reasons to suspect the Maoists’ changed credentials as the party of the ex-rebels more often than not air views that speak of what Boucher says “another movement”.

Perhaps it is this factor that has distanced the Maoists with the US administration.

And here is power hungry Koirala to benefit from Maoists’ lapses. Analysts presume that Koirala might have presented the Maoists’ case in a way that might have startled the US dignitary who out of frustration might have told Koirala to “proceed” with his ambitious plans.

Unfortunately, the Maoists have had no emissary in Colombo who could have defended their case and put the Maoists perspective in a proper manner to the US official.

Analysts wish to advise the Maoists leadership not to annoy the US any more through their fiery lectures. The Maoists must understand that the US is not the villain. The scoundrel is right across the border of which Koirala is number one collaborator. A far flung US in no way could influence Nepali politics.

The Maoists must read in between the lines what US Assistant Secretary of State has spoke of them. The US possesses no evil designs against the Maoists, however, all that the US wants, as would be clear upon reading Boucher’s statement, that the Maoists “behaved” in a democratic manner and that the Maoists must discard the habit of terrifying the national population by airing that yet another revolution was round the corner if denied to form the next government. The more the Maoists terrify the population, the more they are distanced from the people and the democratic countries here and there.

Such fiery lectures with threat loaded meanings must have alarmed the US administration. If they continue to talk on the same lines, it is Koirala and New Delhi who will extract benefits from the Maoists’ repeated follies.

Now coming back to Koirala’s Delhi stop over.

It was a deliberate move taken by Koirala. In effect Koirala wanted to prove that his rule was still “indispensable” in Nepal to provide what he calls a “logical end” to the ongoing peace process.

Koirala to a greater extent bagged success in receiving “sanction” from “Mother India” and other “brother Indias”-read Lal Krishna Advani and Raj Nath Singh-the two powerful leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party having profound connections with the Madhesi leaders more so with Upendra Yadav.

Or else why Mulayam Singh Yadav, an Indian leader who prefers not to poke his nose in Nepal’s affairs too this time bluntly put his inner feelings by stating that “Nepal must have a consensus government”.

What this consensus government means in Mulayam’s consideration is that Koirala be made Nepal’s next Prime Minister who should be trusted by the entire political parties without any glitch.

Mother India too has reportedly assured Koirala that he should steer the nation. Prior to this assurance, Koirala presented the Maoists as “evan the terrible” who could destabilize the entire Indian Union if they were allowed to assume power in Nepal. A practically terrified Mother India instantly instructed, say reports leaking from the men in Koirala’s entourage, her “loyal” servant(s) to act fast in a way that ensured Koirala’s Premiership next.

No wonder that the Bharatiya Janata Party too gave a clear nod to Koirala and thus a confident Koirala landed in Kathmandu all beaming.

To recall, Koirala prior to his Colombo trip had said in a private family gathering that he will teach a befitting “lesson” to Comrade Prachanda soon.

Reportedly Koirala expressed his anger over Prachanda for the latter’s aversion against him for the Presidential candidate.

Under the given circumstances, if Koirala becomes the consensual candidate of the Prime Minister then it would be no wonder. If this does happen, it is the Maoists once again who will be ditched.

This would perhaps explain as to how deep penetration the New Delhi establishment has in Nepali politics.

However, what is for sure that if the Delhi preference prevailed, then the Maoists will tease India under one pretext or the other.

The issues are abundant.

Finally, but at what price Koirala received such blessings? Is it for free? India and non-reciprocity can’t go together. It is time that the Nepali nationalists watch as to what Koirala gives India in a silver plate?

But if the Maoists are allowed to form their own government per chance, Koirala will instantly engineer mechanisms to pull the Maoists leg from the power structure. Take it for granted. The one who broke his own bi-cycle can easily break the BOLERO of Prachanda.

2008-08-06 07:56:09

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Midwifing Nepal: India must assist the Maoists into the mainstream

Sometimes it is very interesting to ponder over the fate of Nepal. So many forces are interested in her, reigning a chaos making difficult to navigate the political quagmires. The following article is copy-pasted from IndiaReacts

Midwifing Nepal
India must assist the Maoists into the mainstream, says N.V.Subramanian.

24 July 2008: India should beware that the Maoists' defeat in Nepal's presidential election has not been to China's liking. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist chairman, Prachanda, has been published by Xinhua in a tilted commentary saying, "There is a big reactionary conspiracy of foreign powers after we won the faith and belief of (a) large crowd of people. Nepal's politics has clearly signified a great danger of anti-revolution."

Prachanda did not name the foreign powers allegedly conspiring against the Maoists, but India would figure prominently in them, preceded or followed by the United States. Even if the Chinese were meddling, Prachanda would fear to say so. But the Chinese and the Maoists see eye-to-eye on several issues, including oppressing the Tibetan protestors, downsizing India, and bringing pro-Beijing changes in Nepal.

The Chinese were not unhappy with the deposed king Gyanendra. Their problem comes from centrist parties like the Nepali Congress (NC) which are close to India. The NC candidate, Ram Bahadur Yadhav, won Nepal's presidential election, defeating the Maoist Ram Raja Prasad Singh, after the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Madhesi People's Rights Forum joined their parliamentary strength to beat the Maoists convincingly.

Even if India played no role in this presidential election, the Maoists would fan trouble against it. With two twenty-seven seats in the Constituent Assembly, the Maoists are the largest party. They have declared they won't form the government but sit out as the opposition. "After the defeat in the presidential election," Prachanda told Xinhua, "our moral base to make the new government has totally come to an end. So we have decided to stay in (the) opposition." Xinhua says Nepal faces political uncertainty now.

That it does, but to play up the foreign conspiracy angle puts India in the firing line. It is unlikely that anyone in the Manmohan Singh government was manipulating Nepal politics to defeat the Maoists considering the crisis here over the Indo-US nuclear deal. But that won't cease Prachanda from pointing accusing fingers at India. And with the Left-CPI-M withdrawing support to the Manmohan Singh government, the Maoists would reckon they have lost an ally that could restrain New Delhi. On the other hand, New Delhi conceivably could feel emboldened to get tough with the Maoists now that the CPI-M support has been withdrawn.

Except that the gap between perception and reality may be so wide that Maoist and Indian interests could hurt with misunderstanding while benefits flow to third parties like China. Nepal's strategic value to India cannot be over-emphasized. Before more misunderstanding sets in, India must play host to Prachanda, or alternatively, have its representatives meet him and clear the air. The Maoists are the largest party in Nepal's Constituent Assembly, and this gives them a legitimacy that India cannot deny.

Possibly the Maoists overplayed their hand by demanding both the President and PM's posts. They never reckoned on the gang-up against their presidential candidate. But equally, their election as the largest party cannot be minimized, and their absent majority cannot be so twisted as to pervert the elections. The Maoists have gone into a deep sulk, but it is not a matter to rejoice.

The Maoists will remain a danger to Nepal's parliamentary democracy so long they are kept out of mainstream politics. It was quite a feat to wean them away from armed struggle, and the abdication of Gyanendra has proceeded peacefully and at considerable more pace than expected. The presidential election and government-formation have taken months, and the second issue is still not resolved. This is understandable. An evolving political solution tautologically takes time to settle.

But even so, there must be recognition of an approaching new political order in Nepal. While the Maoists did not gain a majority in the Constituent Assembly, they still were elected in the largest numbers. This must be recognized by veterans like G.P.Koirala and this should limit backroom manipulations of the sort witnessed in the presidential election.

India can at best give a gentle guiding hand to Nepal's political evolution. That election that elected the Maoists in large numbers must be reflected in government formation, and India must press the Maoists to enter the power structure. The presidential election cannot be unraveled, so the next best option is to have a Maoist-led government.

Once the responsibilities of power weigh on the Maoists, the process of their political integration into mainstream Nepal politics would commence and become irreversible in due course. This should be India's goal. While the Manmohan Singh government has committed the bulk of its energy to pursuing the nuclear deal to conclusion, Nepal in its second birth cannot be neglected either.

N.V.Subramanian is Editor, NewsInsight.net.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ex-King’s dinner diplomacy, President Yadav invited

Ex-King’s dinner diplomacy, President Yadav invited
TGW
Nepal’s last monarch Gyanendra Shah has sent a congratulatory message to the First President of the Republic of Nepal, His Excellency Dr. Ram Baran Yadav.

As per the reports, Gyanendra Shah’s message to the President was delivered by Pashupati Bhakta Maharjan-ex-King’s Chief Secretary.

Upon meeting President Yadav, Maharjan extended ex-King Gyanendra’s invitation for an exclusive dinner with Dr. Yadav.

To add, latest reports have it that Gyanendra Shah has begun holding Business Consultations with some Indian businessmen.

“Ex-King Gyanendra mainly discussed how to smoothly run his business ventures in Nepal”, writes the Samacharpatra Daily today, July 28, 2008.

Excerpts of Ex-King’s message to the President follows:

“I would like to congratulate you for being elected as the first president of Nepal by the Constituent Assembly...”

“I hope that during your tenure as the president of Nepal, you will work towards strengthening Nepali nationalism, Nepali Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, consolidate democratic order, work towards stability and maintain peace and respect human rights”.

Gyanendra Shah, Nagarjun

2008-07-28 08:37:25

Source: Telegraph Nepal

Monday, July 7, 2008

Planning the Demise of Buddhism: People of the Buddhist World by Paul Hattaway et. al, 2004: Review by Allen Carr

Are Christian evangelists worst that all the terror outfits?

A beautiful review by Allen Carr on the controversial book "Peoples of the Buddhist World" by Paul Hattaway et. al. The following is taken from LankaWeb.com..

But this interesting reading is also available at Wisdon Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal

Planning the Demise of Buddhism
Peoples of the Buddhist World by Paul Hattaway, Piquant Editions, Carlisle, 2004.
Reviewed by Allen Carr

Some Western drug companies spend millions of dollars developing and marketing a new drug only to have the health authorities later discover that it has dangerous side-effects and then ban it. Needing to recover their investment and unable to sell their drug in the West some of these companies try to market their dangerous products in the Third World where public awareness of health issues is low and indifferent governments can be brought off. Some might say that Christianity is a bit like this.

Having lost much of their following in the West, churches are now beginning to look for opportunities elsewhere. Of course the Islamic world is out of the question. Even the most optimistic evangelist knows that the chance of spreading the Gospel amongst Muslims is nil. The obvious targets are Africa, India and the Buddhist countries of Asia. There are now several evangelical organizations dedicated just too evangelizing Buddhists. The Asia Pacific Institute of Buddhist Studies in the Philippines offers missionaries in-depth courses in Buddhist doctrine, the languages of Buddhist countries and the sociology of various Buddhist communities – the better to know the enemy.

The Central Asia Fellowship is geared specifically to spreading the Gospel amongst Tibetans. The Overseas Missionary Fellowship is 'an acknowledged authority on Buddhism' and 'is available to conduct training sessions and seminars, give presentations and speak on how Christians can work effectively in the Buddhist world.' The Sonrise Centre for Buddhist Studies and the South Asia Network are both on-line communities providing missionaries with detailed, accurate and up-to-date information useful for evangelizing Buddhists. Make no mistake, these are not small ad-hock groups. They are large, well-financed, superbly run organizations staffed by highly motivated and totally dedicated people and they are in it for the long haul.

A book called Peoples of the Buddhist World has recently been published by one of the leaders of this new evangelical assault on Buddhism. The book's 453 pages offer missionaries and interested Christians a complete profile of 316 Buddhist ethnic and linguistic groups in Asia, from the Nyenpa of central Bhutan to the Kui of northern Cambodia, from the Buriats of the Russian Far East to the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka.

There is a detailed breakdown of the size of each group, how many call themselves Buddhists and how many actually know and practice it, which languages they speak, their strengths and how to overcome them, their weaknesses and how to take advantage of them, an overview of their history, their culture and the best ways to evangelize them.

The book is filled with fascinating and beautiful color photos of all of these peoples, many of them little-known. It makes one very sad to think that these gentle, smiling, innocent folk are in now in the sights of worldly-wise missionaries determined to undermine their faith and destroy their ancient cultures. However, Hattaway book is also interesting for the lurid glimpse it gives into the bizarre mentality and the equally bizarre theology of the evangelical Christians. In the preface Hattaway asks, "Does it break God's heart today that hundreds of millions of Buddhists are marching to hell with little or no gospel witness? Does it break the Savior's heart that millions worship lifeless idols instead of the true, glorious Heavenly Father?"

No wonder the evangelicals are always so angry and defensive, so self-conscious and full of nervous energy. Every day they live with the contradictory belief that their God is full of love and yet throws people into eternal hell-fire, even people who have never heard of him. That must be a real strain. Like a man who has to continually pump air into a leaking balloon to keep it inflated, they have to keep insisting that Buddhism is just an empty worthless idolatry when they know very well that this is not true. That must be a real strain too. Throughout his book Hattaway repeats all the old lies, slanders and half-truths that missionaries peddled in the 19th century but which mainline Christians gave up on a hundred years ago.

Hattaway claims that Buddhists, like other non-Christians, are leading empty meaningless lives and are actually just waiting to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, the statistics he presents to his readers do not always bare this out. He shows that some Buddhist groups have been subjected to quite intense evangelization for years and yet have chosen to keep their faith. For example 32% of Kyerung of Nepal have heard the Gospel but 'few have understood the heart of the message.' Hattaway tells us that 'the American Baptists worked in the Tovyan area (of Burma) for many decades, but most of the converts they made were among the Karen people. They found the Tovyan people 'slow to respond to the gospel – a pattern that continues to this day.'
Dedicated and self-sacrificing missionaries have labored in Thailand for over 140 years but have made only miniscule numbers of converts. According to Hattaway there are 2000 foreign missionaries operating in Chiangmai - more than the actual number of Christians in the city.

It is hearting to know that amongst evangelicals Thailand has been dubbed 'the graveyard of missionaries.' Twenty one percent of Lao Ga people have been evangelized but 'Christianity has yet to make any impact on this people group.' Forty two percent of the Lemo have been told about Jesus but their 'strong belief in Buddhism and their isolated cultural mindset have prevented them from accepting the Gospel.' Of course Hattaway's 'isolated cultural mindset' prevents him from even considering that these people might have decided not to become Christians because Buddhism gives them the emotional, intellectual and spiritual sustenance they need. So he has to explain why so many Buddhists remain what he calls 'resistant peoples' some other way. To him it is because of fear (p.217), intellectual laziness (p.149), greed and blindness (p.172) and or course 'demonic opposition' (p.190). Another cause is delusion, as for example amongst the Palaung of northern Burma, who are so completely deluded that 'they believe they have the truth in Buddhism'(p.217).

Of course, Hattaway is also crafty enough to know that the stability and cultural integrity of traditional Buddhist societies is a major hindrance to their evangelization. Civil wars such as in Sri Lanka and Cambodia are literally a god-send for the missionaries. Hatthaway calls the disruption and displacement of the Loba people of Nepal by several huge floods 'a God-given opportunity' (p.168). Like blowflies to a dying animal evangelical missionaries swarm around communities in need so they can win converts while disguising their efforts as 'aid work' and 'humanitarian relief.'

Unfortunately, many genuine and decent Christians in the West, unaware of this hidden agenda, give money to World Vision and similar organizations that use aid as a conversion technique. But while many Buddhists have rejected the missionaries' message others have succumbed to it. Thirty one percent of the Tamangs of Nepal have now become Christians. The first missionaries arrived in Mongolia in 1990 and within a few years they had made thousands of converts, mainly among the young. This phenomenal growth has now slowed considerably but the number of evangelical agencies operating within the country has grown enormously and there are still almost no books on Buddhism in Mongolian.

In China today Christianity is growing so fast that they can hardly build the churches quick enough to hold all the new converts. The gentle hill tribes people of Thailand and Laos are falling prey to the missionaries one by one. These and the numerous other successes are not just because the missionaries have been so unscrupulous and persistent but because Buddhists have been so indifferent, so slow to see the danger and even more slow to respond to it in any effective manner.

In Thailand millions are spent on glittering ceremonies, huge Buddha statues and gold leaf for covering stupas but almost nothing on Buddhist literature, religious education and social services for the hill tribes. Another 'God-given opportunity' for the missionaries is the general lackadaisical attitude within the much of the Sangha. In one of the most revealing (about the mentality of both missionaries and the bhikkhus) and troubling parts of this book is Bryan Lurry's account of the four months he stayed in a monastery in the Shan states in north-eastern Burma. He was there to assess the prospects of converting Buddhist bhikkhus and he went away full of optimism. I fear that his optimism was not entirely misplaced. The abbot where Lurry stayed allowed him to teach the bhikkhus English (using the Bible as a text of course), show a film on the life of Christ and later even conduct regular Bible classes for the bhikkhus. Uninformed Western Buddhists might laud this as yet another example of Buddhist tolerance, albeit misplaced tolerance. I suspect that it was actually due to ignorance and to that indifference to everything that does not rock the boat or contravene traditional patterns of behavior that is so prevalent in much of the Sangha.

As a part of his strategy to understand their thinking, Lurry asked his 'friends' a series of questions. To the question 'What is the most difficult Buddhist teaching to follow?' some bhikkhus answered not eating after noon, not being able to drink alcohol and one said to attain nirvana. To the question 'If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?' The replies included to be stronger, taller, to change the shape of the nose and to have more pale skin. When asked why they had joined the monastery not one of the bhikkhus mentioned an interest in the Dhamma, in meditation or in the religious life in general. As is usual in much of the Buddhist world they had probably ordained simply because it is the tradition to do so. When Lurry asked the bhikkhus if they would ever disrobe for any reason 'my students expressed their desire to leave the temple in order to be soldiers in the Shan Independence army...They did not see a contradiction in the fact that, as monks, they are literally not supposed to kill a mosquito, much less another human being.' Lurry admits that he was really surprised that so few of the replies he got suggested any deep knowledge of Buddhism or an apparent genuine religiosity.

Having lived in Thai monasteries for eight years I am sad to say that none of the bhikkhus' replies surprised me in the least. All too often today the Buddhist monastic life consists of little more than rote learning, unthinking acceptance of traditional beliefs, an endless round of mind-numbing rituals, going to danas and having long naps. Fortunately, many Buddhist communities are holding out against missionary efforts but with poor religious education and little leadership from a sedate Sangha how long will they continue to be able to continue to do so? Something has to be done and it has to be done soon.

Another old missionary calumny repeated throughout Hattaway's book is that Buddhists live in constant terror of devils and demons. This accusation is rather amusing coming from the evangelical Christians who see almost everything they don't like as the machinations of Satan and his minions. Lurry says of his experience, 'I must admit that the temples intimidated me. I saw many items that discouraged me from entering. At some temples, fierce-looking statues of creatures with long fangs and sharp claws guard the entrance. Guarding the main hall of many temples are two large statues of dragons with multiple heads on either side of the staircase...If such images were on the outside of the temple, what would I find on the inside? I half imagined that these creatures would somehow come to life and attempt to harm me' (p..234).

I can understand how simple, often illiterate hill tribesmen in the backblocks of Burma could be frightened of malevolent spirits. But Mr. Lurry is a graduate of the University of North Texas and he is frightened of bits of painted cement and plaster used to decorate Buddhist temples. How easy it is to scare evangelical Christians!

Nine pages in Peoples of the Buddhist World are devoted to the Sinhalese, the native people of Sri Lanka, long a target of missionary endeavors. Despite nearly 500 years of close contact with Christianity only 4% of Sinhalese are Christian and this is despite periods when their religion was severely disadvantaged and even actively persecuted. It both perplexes and infuriates the evangelists that they have had so little success in this staunchly Buddhist island.

Since the late 1950's the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has tacitly accepted its minority status and for the most part adapted a live and let live attitude towards Buddhism. It has continued its conversion efforts but in a low-key and respectful way. But starting in the 1990's evangelical organizations have literally swamped Sri Lanka and they have a 'no quarter asked for, none given' attitude. So far most of their converts have been amongst Catholics, to the consternation of the Catholic Church, but of course the real target is the Buddhists. Buddhist bhikkhus are calling on the government to enact laws against conversion. But is this really the best solution?

It is quite understandable that the Sinhalese do not like their religion being referred to as 'Satanic devil worship' especially by foreigners, which is what most of the missionaries in the country are. Some years ago a deeply respected Sinhalese bhikkhu died and there was a veritable outpouring of grief among the Buddhist public. At the very time of this bhikkhu's funeral the leader of a house church in an outer suburb of Colombo, let off fireworks, the usual way people express delight or celebration in Sri Lanka. Naturally, the Buddhists around this church were deeply offended and although no violence occurred some very angry words were exchanged. I happened to witness the locals' confrontation with this church leader. He insisted that his crackers had nothing to do with the bhikkhu's funeral but was unable to give a convincing reason why he had ignited them. Throughout his encounter with his neighbors he was brazen, unapologetic about his actions and dismissive of the peoples' hurt feelings. I can only say that he gave me the distinct impression that he would have welcomed being manhandled or beaten so that he could claim for himself the title that evangelicals so long to have – that of martyr for their Lord.

Hattaway's book highlights incidents of violence against Christians in Sri Lanka and elsewhere which have unfortunately started to become all too common. Of course, what he fails to mention is that it is only the evangelicals, not Catholics or mainline Christians, who attract such negative reactions.. And of course he fails to mention why people sometimes get so angry at the evangelicals. The fact is that it is their bad-mannered pushiness and their complete insensitivity to the religious feelings of others that is the cause of such violence. This is not to excuse the violence but only to explain why it happens.

It is also true that some of the more extreme evangelists even sometimes deliberately provoke confrontations. I have two evangelical tracts from Sri Lanka – one insists that villages must become 'a battlefield for souls' and the other says that Christians must 'confront the unsaved, yes even forcibly confront them, and compel them to make a decision.' And it is not just Buddhists who are offended by the evangelicals’ rude aggressive behavior. A Chinese Thai born-again Christian once informed me that the Pope is actually 'the prostitute of the Anti-Christ' and showed me the Bible passage that proved it. I could only laugh at his half-baked hermeneutics.. But how would a devout Catholic have felt being told such a thing?

The section on Sri Lanka in Hattaway's book is written by Tilak Rupasinghe and Vijaya Karunaratna, two well-known evangelical preachers. They gleefully highlight Sri Lanka's many woes – civil war, high suicide rate, corruption, insurrection – and of course present this as just more evidence that Buddhism is false. Then they make the bold claim, 'In Christ there can be healing from the wounds of injustice, oppression and ethnic hatred...In Christ there can be hope for the redemption of the nation, its land, its language, its culture and its people.' This is a seductive promise and one that some people might be willing to listen to. But of course it is the same old spurious and empty promise missionaries have always made in the lands they try to evangelize; 'What a mess your country is in! Your gods have failed. Accept Jesus Christ and everything will be wonderful.'

But does Christianity really do a better job of solving social problems? The evidence that it does is very thin. Christianity failed miserably to bring peace to northern Ireland, in fact, it was the main cause of the problem. Germany's long tradition of Catholicism and Protestantism did not prevent Nazism taking root there. South Africa's Dutch Reformed Church was an ardent supporter of apartheid and all its oppression and cruelty. The prevalence of evangelical Christianity in the southern United States, the so-called 'Bible Belt,' has not prevented it being the poorest and most raciest part of that country. And the racial segregation in the south is never more obvious than on Sunday morning when black and white people still go to separate churches; 'Hallelujha and praise the Lord but worship him in your own church!'

Hattaway's book is or at least should be a wake-up call for we Buddhists. Unless we reform the Sangha, better organize ourselves and make more of an effort to both know and apply our religion the Light of Asia may be snuffed out.


Source: LankaWeb.com.

Charles Shobhraj's New Love Story: Mother of Sobhraj's fiancée defending him against bigamy charges

There is a new interesting story that surfaced in Kathmandu recently. Charles Shobhraj, the convicted one, serving the 20 years jail term is 'seriously' in love with a 20 years St. Mary's student Nihita Thapa, daughter of a well connected, senior Nepali Lawyer Shakultala Thapa. The following text is copied from the www.newendpress.com. It is interesting why a lawyer's daughter should find love in Charles Shobhraj, known for his notority. Luck, perhaps!

You can also see the young spirited lady's pictures at link called Email Bookmarking Blog

Here is also another link at cbsnews.com.

Mother of Sobhraj's fiancée defending him against bigamy charges
Monday July 7 2008 11:02 IST
Sudeshna Sarkar

KATHMANDU, NEPAL: In the latest twist to the drama that started in Nepal and abroad after it became public that criminal mastermind Charles Sobhraj had become engaged to a Nepali woman 44 years his junior, the mother of his fiancée Nihita Biswas entered the fray in a bid to protect her daughter's rights.

Shakuntala Thapa, Nihita's mother and a senior Nepali lawyer, Monday began consulting the top legal experts of the country, including former attorney-generals, to discuss the legal remedies to fight the recurring bigamy allegation against her would-be son-in-law.

"I am consulting my senior partners," Thapa told IANS. "We are looking at the best way to protect my daughter's privacy as well as rights."

Her daughter and Sobhraj, on their part, announced their intention to jointly slap defamation suits on several news agencies, newspapers and television stations in Nepal and abroad.

"We haven't broken any law by deciding to marry," Sobhraj told IANS from Kathmandu's central prison, where he is fighting a 20-year jail sentence imposed for the murder of an American tourist in 1975.

"The question of bigamy doesn't arise because my wife and I were divorced in the 70s," he added.

Sobhraj married a French woman in 1969. However, she filed for divorce when he was arrested in India in the 70s and on May 17, 1974, the French Tribunal of Nanterre granted the divorce.

Two months later, his ex-wife married an American and had a daughter by him a year later.

Sobhraj, serving a prison sentence in New Delhi's Tihar Jail, was officially informed of the divorce by the French Embassy in New Delhi in 1977.

Besides the official certificates, all these details are also mentioned in two books written about Sobhraj - "Serpentine" by Thomas Thompson and "The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj" by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke.

"Besides the fact that I am single, we are also planning to marry in Paris when I am released, in accordance with French laws," Sobhraj said. "So the question of violating Nepal's marriage laws does not arise at all."

Sobhraj's tough French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre has been asked to serve legal notices on the newspapers and agencies that have been repeatedly describing him as a "serial killer".

"It is sheer defamation," Sobhraj said. "No court ever convicted me of murder. While Nepal's district court in 2004 pronounced me guilty of the killing of American Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975, I am contesting the verdict in the Supreme Court and the issue is sub judice. I have been a victim of media prejudice and now my fiancée and her family are also being hounded."

The Himalayan Times daily, which was taken to task by Nihita, Monday said her mother was a former supporter of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist who switched camps and is now a Maoist supporter.

She was also said to be close to Maoist Minister for Physical Planning and Works Hisila Yami, who submitted her resignation last month along with other Maoist ministers.

Besides consulting lawyers to defend Sobhraj in Supreme Court, Thapa will also be looking at libel laws to protect her own privacy.

IANS

Friday, June 27, 2008

Kamal Nepali - A Child who Saved Annother Child from Deep Crevices of Seti River in Pokhara

On Tuesday, June 24 afternoon a child of 2.5 years age fell into the crevices of Seti River in Pokhara, valley famous for its Annapurna Range of Himalayas and the Lakes.

Despite all efforts by different specialized rescue teams, including Nepal Army and Police squads, the child could not be brought out from the death trap. The crevice was simply too narrow and it was not possible for big guys to adventure any further from 20 ft. The child was believed to have rested at 65 feet from the surface outside. So, Kamal Nepali, 12 years old school boy, who liked gymnastics in his school, agreed to go down to take the child, up on his brother's request. Kamal's brother told him - that there is a child like our own sister, who needs help.

After the rescue team's briefing on him and preparations with a bag, walki-talkie and torch, the boy descended, negotiated the narrow hole, reached the child, lifted her, put her in the bag, signalled the team he was ready and was pulled up. The boy again negotiateed the narrow part of the hole with utmost care and arrived on the surface with the living child. After 22 hours, on June 25, 2008, the child was taken to a hospital in Pokhara and is recovering well.

Then there were emotional breakdowns. For the parents of the child, who came from India as a member of misisonery team to preach christianity to Nepalis, told that Kamal is now his son.

This was indeed an act that rekindles kindness and compassions in many hearts. Kamal Nepali's father repairs shoes for their survival.

here is an article by Prem Nepali of Kantipur about Kamal Nepali and his act. Also an article by Kulchandra Neupane introduces Kamal Nepali. Hope you will enjoy if you have not read it in the Kantipur Daily.

The link to the article is here. The article is copy-pasted below:



Accolades, money showered on Kamal


BY PREM NEPALI


KASKI, June 27 - Kamal Nepali, 12, who rescued two-and-half year old Aradhana Pradhan from a 60-feet deep gorge in Pokhara on Wednesday at risk to his own life has been given a number of rewards and words of appreciations.
On Thursday, Nepali could not even attend all the functions organized to felicitate him for his bravery. His hectic schedule was proof that this young boy from a poor family had turned into a public hero.

Commending his valor, various organizations and individuals in Pokhara city were making preparations to felicitate him, but they could not get hold of him as he had already bought an air-ticket for Kathmandu. Since early morning, Nepali remained busy. Media jostled for an interview.

Amidst this hectic activity, leaders of the Democratic National Youth Union, Gandaki chapter were complaining that they only got five minutes to felicitate him. "We did not get time to even hand over the money collected in different places," said Rajiv Pahari, president of the union, adding that the government should honor him for his valor.

Ashbir Nepali of Annapurna Mijar Society was complaining that he could not hand over to him a shawl and a token of appreciation. Many have been showing eagerness to sponsor his education and ensure him a successful future. His father Nil Bahadur, who makes shoes for a living, was more than happy to acknowledge all the appreciation together with his son.

"I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that he would win such rewards and appreciation at such a tender age," he quipped.

Money pours in
Meanwhile, many organizations have shown interest in rewarding Kamal. Commending his courage in rescuing a child from a 'death trap', Everest Insurance Company Ltd on Thursday announced a cash award of Rs 101,001, along with a token of appreciation.

Industrialist and president of the insurance company, Rajendra Khetan, in a statement also pledged to give Rs 21,001 to the rescued child for her patience.

Likewise, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN), an NGO involved with the rights of child workers, promised to award Nepali a cash prize of Rs 10,000 and commend his bravery. CWIN, in a statement, also wished speedy recovery to the rescued child. She is undergoing treatment at Pokhara-based Manipal Hospital.

Who is Kamal?
BY KULCHANDRA NEUPANE

POKHARA

Born in an impoverished family, Kamal Nepali is the youngest son of Nil Bahadur Nepali. Previously residents of Ram Bazaar, Kamal's family now lives in Tutang since the their house at Ram Bazaar was sold to clear a debt.

Kamal's family and friend know him as a restless and brave boy who scoots off into the neighborhood sometimes performs acrobatic stunts, wowing his friends and elders alike. His friends know him better as Michael. Kamal's father, Nil Bahadur, who knew about his son's heroic deed only after the whole thing was over, is proud of his son's extraordinary feat.

"Kamal is very fond of children. This might be the reason why he risked his life to save the little girl in the first place," said Nil Bahadur. Sumek Adhikari of Nepal Canoeing Association says, "Kamal projected incredible valor when I first saw him volunteering for this dangerous task." "A brave son like Kamal is what a country like ours needs."

Extraordinary tale of nation's little hero

Until Wednesday, little did this 12-year old lad know he would rescue a toddler stuck some 60 feet below a treacherous gorge, just bigger than a rabbit hole, and be hailed as a hero nationwide.

Just like any other day, Kamal was home watching television, unaware that a baby girl Aradhana Pradhan was fighting for her dear life inside the gorge for almost two days. All this while the locals and rescue personnel from Nepal Canoeing Association from Kathmandu, along with Nepal Army soldiers were making rescue bids to save the child without success.

Kamal knew about the situation only after his elder brother Salum, who was actively engaged in the rescue bid since day one, brought him to the incident site to try Kamal's petite physique into the narrow gorge to rescue the little girl.

Salum himself had staked his life in the gorge to rescue baby Aradhana but he could not make it below 25 feet due to the narrow hole beneath him. After hearing disappointed rescue personnel say that only a small boy could enter the slender hole, Salum had brought his brother Kamal to undertake the Herculean task.

At first, locals raised their eyebrows at Salum for trying to risk his own brother's life by lowering him down the narrow gorge, where another minor was already trapped. But after Salum decided to go for it and Kamal too accepted the risk audaciously, locals accepted this bold step.

Rescue personnel then helped Kamal to put on the safety harness and took him down till the spot from where the gorge got narrow. From there on all hope lay on Kamal. Two rescue personnel waited for Kamal outside the narrow passage of the gorge, while he lowered himself down following instructions from rescue personnel through walkie-talkie.

The crowd outside were on tenterhooks all this while until Kamal emerged from the gorge with Aradhana tucked inside a bag. Kamal emerged as the savior of Aradhana, he emerged as a hero. He won the hearts of the crowd.

But most of all Kamal won the hearts of Aradhana's parents, John and Easter, by saving their only daughter from the death trap. Overjoyed by their daughter's rescue at the hands of this little boy, they decided to regard Kamal as their son.

The doctors involved in the treatment of little Aradhana say the girl is doing fine and she shall be discharged soon.



Posted on: 2008-06-26 20:50:48 (Server Time)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Information on Decentralization Project in Nepal --

The following paragraphs have some more info on the context of Decentralization Support Programme in Nepal, taken from this link.

Region: Asia
Thematic Focus: Constitutional Reform, Popular Participation
Country: Nepal

Context

UNDP has been supporting the process of decentralization in Nepal since 1982, initially supporting the formulation of the Decentralization Act. In 1989, UNDP project entitled "Strengthening Decentralization Planning" assisted the government in preparing the currently existing local government laws and national policies related to decentralization, rural development, and NGOs, including the District Development Act, Village Development Act, and the Municipal Act. The "Supporting Decentralization in Nepal" project, funded by UNDP and executed by the government through its national planning commission secretariat, was approved in January 1993 and is now completed.

The "Supporting Decentralization in Nepal" project was formulated to address three issues fundamental in preventing the majority of rural inhabitants from benefiting from development activities:

Lack of information to guide local decision-making;
Continued control of development resources by central bureaucracies; and
Continued lack of accountability to the people.

Key Factors

To address the above three issues, the project helped to enhance the capacity of "National Planning Commission" to formulate, promote, and monitor the implementation of liberalizing policies in support of rural development and, secondly, to enhance the capabilities of local elected bodies in six districts to effectively plan and manage local development activities through cooperation with government line agencies, NGOs and user's group (through a participatory development approach). As a result and a direct follow-up to this initiative, the project " Participatory District Development Project - PDDP" was approved in 1995 - covering the original 6 districts as well as 14 new districts.

Primary emphasis in PDDP is given to promoting decentralized, participatory development, by mobilizing civic institutions (including the private sector, women's organizations, NGOs and community-based organizations), local authorities with support from the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Local Development.

A programme entitled: "The Local Governance" has also been designed to supplement the efforts of PDDP by branching out its activities to additional 20 districts. The programme is developed to:

Develop an information system for District Development Committees (DDCs);
Assist DDC to practice and institutionalize a participatory approach to planning for district development;
Practice and institutionalize a participatory approach to monitoring the progress of development initiatives and measuring the impact made on local development based on information derived from beneficiaries themselves;
Incorporate an accounting system in the DDC to monitor the use of development; and
Use alternative, innovative ideas to improve implementation management tools.
Although the Local Governance initiative will use the same programme ideas as the PDDP, to avoid over-burdening the PDDP's management, they will form a joint umbrella programme.

Main Lessons

The main lessons and benefits from the Nepalese experience can be summarized as:

UNDP's catalytic role in support of decentralization not only enhanced participation and empowerment through capacity building and by being responsive to local needs, but it also contributed to UNDP's own SHD-oriented project pipeline development;
Accountability is possible through strengthening various tiers of power - as exemplified by the District's growing awareness of both their rights and their responsibilities;
Voice and choice were enhanced - local communities were empowered to direct their own development agendas with assistance of UNDP;
Decentralization did not take place in vacuum - democracy, economic liberalization of the economy and privatization were all part of it;
Decentralization has encouraged foreign donors to invest through local governments, and so has had a ripple effect on other programmes;
The concept of ownership is crucial - it is an effective method of mobilizing development resources in rural areas - contrasting strongly with many "policy dialogue" type projects funded by donor agencies which can be confrontational and impose a set of beliefs on resistant officials;
Formation of policies is not enough - decentralization needs a strong political commitment with a legal basis; and
Decentralization is an incremental long-term process; there is no quick fix solution to institutional building.

For full reporting on UNDP's support of the decentralization process in Nepal see:

Participatory District Development, Village Development Through Social Mobilization - The Beginning…., NPC/MLD/UNDP NEP/95/008

UNDP's Support to Democratic Decentralization in Nepal, Paul Lundberg, UNDP Islamabad, March 1997 (available electronically on UNDP's MDGD Web -site)

Nepal - Supporting Decentralization (NEP/92/027) Report of the Evaluation Mission, Richard Huntington and Pradip P. Upadyay, November 1995

Readings in Decentralization: Food for Thought - A Definition of Governance - Series Note: 5

The following email note is publicly available. Here is a good discussion on the definition of governance. The information is taken from this link.

From::::: paul.lundberg@un.org.pk
To::::: magnet@undp.org
Date::::: Fri, 19 Sep 1997 21:20:42 PKT
Subject :: Re: Food for Thought - A Definition of Governance

Dear Magnet,

Some of our colleagues have argued, vociferously in one case, that
defining governance is an academic exercise that should not concern
us practitioners. I disagree with that view. I believe that it is
essential that we understand what we are talking about and agree
among ourselves about the nature of our subject.

To start my comment, I would like to submit an alternate definition
of governance. This definition was created by Dr. Elinor Ostrom, a
professor of political science and a lifelong student of common
property resource management issues. She defines governance quite
simply as the "regularized ways of ordering human societies at all
levels of organization from family units to entire societies".

Why did I think it necessary to submit an alternate definition? We
need to define governance as a function of society, not of
government, and without referring to intended results.
Unfortunately, the first sentence of UNDP's definition of governance
immediately creates an obstacle for those who see the influence of
civil society to be paramount. Governance should not be equated
with the processes of government. The "management of a country's
affairs" is an outcome of governance, not its definition. One of the
most difficult tasks I face when attempting to introduce the concept
of governance to officials and politicians is to get them to
recognize that, in a free society, it is the civil society, not the
government, that determines the principles under which institutions
are formed and function.

The second sentence in UNDP's definition helps to broaden our
view of governance, but I fear it comes too late because the
readers are already thinking about citizens in relation to their
governments. However, this sentence rightly addresses the fact that
civil society does not spend much of its time thinking about
political society. Most of the time people think about their
relations with other people. They think of government only when it
gets in the way or when it fails to protect their rights. (More
recently, people also think of government when they want something
they don't want to pay for, but that is a subject for a later
debate.) I would argue that it is the quality of individual
relationships that determines the quality of governance, not the
other way around. The decision making processes involved in the
management of a nation's development resource allocations will depend
ultimately upon the dominant approach of its civil society to the
management of family and community relations.

In support of this relational view of governance, I would like
to quote Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote in his classic review of
early American governance in the 1830's: "If men are to remain
civilized, or to become so, the art of association together must grow
and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is
increased". I believe the quality of association to be found
in a society is a key determinant that can be used to distinguish
good from bad governance. A valuable question to ask is: Do the
formal and informal rule structures extant in a society, and the
manner in which those rules are enforced, support or constrain the
ability of people to work together for common purposes.

Thus, the "ordering of human societies" in Dr. Ostrom's definition
is not a process that is done to societies, but by them in a
self-organized manner over time. The process of creating
lasting systems of governance is dominated by the interaction of
individual decisions. Fortunately, or unfortunately, when these
individual decisions are aggregated through social institutions the
emergent structures are rarely predictable.

Those of you who got this far may now legitimately ask what kinds of
governance support initiatives are possible to consider if the
evolution of governance systems is essentially a chaotic,
uncontrollable process. Obviously, we need to start by
deconstructing the definition into its component parts and
determining those that are appropriate for external interventions.
The results will differ greatly among societies. The late Nobel
economist, Fredrick Hayak, often referred to the "fatal conceit"
of those who believed that they could engineer societies. To avoid
this conceit, I suggest that we focus the bulk of our attention on
promoting those activities that enhance abilities at all levels of
society to work out their problems for themselves. If you are
looking for examples, MDGD's LIFE is arguably one of the best.

To conclude my assessment of UNDP's definition, I believe the
second paragraph is inappropriatly worded. A good definition of a
term should not be tied to the normative values of its definers.
This definition of "good governance" is inappropriate not because it
is eurocentric, but because it is UN-centric. It is too filled with
jargon currently in fashion in development circles to have much
general or lasting value.

As an alternative I submit the following: "Good governance occurs
when societal norms and practices empower and encourage people to
take increasingly greater control over their own development in
a manner that does not impinge upon the accepted rights of others."

Comments and criticism are welcome.

Paul Lundberg
UNDP Pakistan
lundberg@un.org.pk

Readings in Decentralization - insights from Cambodia - Series Note:4

The following number of articles have some insights in Decentralization. The link is here.

Commune Councils

By Molly Ball
The Cambodia Daily

The Feb 3 commune council elections were widely hailed as a major step toward grassroots democracy in Cambodia. But that goal won't happen overnight.

"If people really think they're going to get 100 percent of local governments functioning right away that's never happened anywhere," said Scott Leiper, a UN adviser to the government on decentralization.

The massive amount of work that must be done to get 1,621 commune councils up and running will be complicated by the fact that many details of how the councils will proceed are still unclear.
"On election day, Cambodians went to vote for a system of government that has yet to be fully defined," said Eric Kessler of the National Democratic Institute.

Critics say this uncertainty is ripe for exploitation by the central government. Participants in the process say the government is successfully scrambling to make the next steps clear.

The National Assembly passed the Commune Administration Law almost a year ago, laying out the councils' basic format. But the law is full of phrases like "The Minister of Interior shall issue an instruction concerning the procedures..." or "...shall be determined by Sub-decree."

"[The commune election] is a big step for democracy, but at the same time the warning is clear," said former CPP senator Chhang Song. "If you do not describe the exact, precise, clear, practical roles for each council and each member of council, you will have a lot of infringement by the [national] government."

An inter-ministerial body called the National Committee for Supporting the Communes has met at least once a month since mid-2001 and formulated some, but not all, of the 12 additional laws, subdecrees or ministerial instructions needed to determine what the new councils' powers, duties and structure will be.

Some observers believe the national government and especially the ruling CPP deliberately put off creating these rules until after the election. The US-based International Republican Institute said in its evaluation of the Feb 3 elections, ÒThus far, the Cambodian government has failed to produce implementing regulations for the operation of commune councils.

"Until proven otherwise, this failure will be considered an act of bad faith by Cambodia's ruling party. The power to write these rules must not be allowed to be an insurance policy on maintaining local power for the ruling party."

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy expressed similar concerns. "Much of the implementation remains unclear," he said. "The CPP will devise ways to preserve as much power as they can. They will write the laws to suit them."

Others who don't share these conspiracy theories admit that the still-missing aspects of the law will cause problems.

Most of the councils' first year will consist of intensive training in orientation, finance and planning. But council members can't be taught rules that don't yet exist, Leiper said.

"I think all the major stuff is going to be in place in time, but it does put pressure on the training process," he said. "For things to move forward, a lot of things have to be passed or you have to come up with interim arrangements."

Two major areas will take some time to formulate. The first is the procedures for levying local taxes, which are supposed to be the councils" main source of revenue.

The commune administration law gives the councils the power to impose taxes, but it says "the law shall determine the category, degree and manner for collecting" them. Until such law is passed, the councils effectively can't tax their citizens.

"This will be complicated, since it is connected with the interests of the local people," said Sak Setha, head of the Department of General Administration in the Ministry of Interior and the government's point man on decentralization. "It will need a lot of study and discussion. We will try to draft these rules this year."

But Leiper estimated it would take two years before communes start collecting taxes.
Until then, the councils will have to subsist on their small allocations from the national government. There are 20 billion riel (about $5 million) budgeted to the national Commune Fund, plus $1.5 million from donors; procedures for disbursement should be set up by Khmer New Year in April, Sak Setha said.

But he admitted that $6.5 million isn't much. "We have to divide a very small GDP into three pockets the national government, provincial government and local government," he said.

If the $5 million were divided evenly between the communes, each would get just more than $4,000. In fact, it will be distributed based on an existing formula that takes into account the communes' population and level of need.

Without funds, the councils will likely be hard pressed to conduct even their routine duties such as registering births and marriages not to mention creating and implementing a Commune Development Plan, as the law demands.

The second major provision that will take time to define is the election of village chiefs. According to the law, "to increase the effectiveness of commune administration," the new councils are to arrange for each village in their jurisdiction to elect a chief in accordance with a ministerial instruction.

This instruction will be tricky to craft, Sak Setha said. "This is a very sensitive point. In our Constitution, the village is not a tier of administration, just a unit of community it is informal. But in reality a lot of projects [must] cooperate with the village people," he said.

"We need to have seminars and discussions relating to the organization of the villages. This year we will set up the seminars, after Khmer New Year, to decide things including how village chiefs will be elected. We will need to review all our systems of rural development to integrate them to support national policy for decentralization and local governance."

As Sak Setha himself pointed out, cooperation on the village level will be essential to the communes' development but it may be more than a year before this cooperation can be organized.

Another concern to many observers is the chain of command. As it stands, the commune councils are under the supervision of the national government their legal relationship is with the nation's only other elected body, the National Assembly.

"These multi-party commune councils still report to and are dependent on the central government, which is still single-party-dominated," Kessler said. "That's troubling."

The authority for administering the communes rests with the Ministry of Interior, but the ministry has delegated or will delegate most responsibilities to provincial or district officials as a matter of practicality, Sak Setha said.

This means another entire level of government will have to be trained and equipped to carry out local administration, Leiper pointed out.

To some, it also raises the issue of true autonomy. "I wonder how much [the councils] will really be able to do when they are still below" appointed district and province chiefs, said Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Tioulong Saumura.

"At the district and province level, it must be clear that their role is to support the commune councils, not control the commune councils," said Puch Sothon, acting director of the Commune Council Support Project, a collaborative effort of nine NGOs.

"The commune councils work only under the legislation. If they know this, if they know their duties, responsibilities and power clearly, if they know all the legislationÑthey can protect themselves as autonomous."

According to the law, the Ministry of Interior is to appoint a clerk to each council. Some 1,884 clerks one for each commune plus a reserve corps were recruited in their local areas and have been trained, Sak Setha said.

The clerks are just assistants to the council, Sak Setha said. They keep track of documents, handle paperwork and perform simple income-and-expenditure accounting.

But some worry that since the clerks are agents of the ministry, they will at best make council members too afraid to speak their minds, and at worst serve as informants, keeping tabs on the councils for the central government.

Compounding these fears is the fact that the ministry, according to the law, has the power to dismiss any council whose actions it deems "contrary to the Constitution and the Government policy."

"The policy of replacing the whole council if they deviate from the government line is very dangerous," Chhang Song said. "It makes the clerks look like spies and the Minister of Interior like the super-spy."

Sak Setha said that possibility is prohibited in the ministerial instruction that lays out the clerks' duties. "The clerks are not part of the monitoring, control and intervention procedures," he said. He pointed out that councils are allowed to request a new clerk if they don't like the one they are given.

The law also specifies that "every commune councilor has freedom to express their opinions in the meetings of commune council. No commune councilors shall be prosecuted, detained or arrested because of opinions expressed during the meetings of commune council."

There are many other variables that will make or break the new commune councils. Will council members be able to put aside their party affiliations and work together? Will their constituents take an interest in the councils" doings, participate in the process and hold the councils accountable at the polls?

It's not that decentralization has been mismanaged; it's just that much remains to be seen, observers say. Everyone, it seems, wants to believe that the kinks will be ironed out, the uncertainties resolved.
"We must be optimistic with this process. We must go together," Puch Sothon said. "We can criticize, but only in a constructive way. We hope it will work."

Clearly, the councils have a long way to go from clearing up the legal framework for their operation to solving the many practical hurdles. But despite the current scramble to take care of the business left still unfinished on Election Day, Leiper said the Feb 3 elections were not premature. "It was important to set a deadline [with] the elections," he said. "That's what provided the pressure for all that has been done."

He pointed out that many other countries have embarked on decentralization initiatives an increasingly popular reform in international development schemes with far less preparation. In both Pakistan and the Philippines, for example, newly elected local governments waited two years for their first funding from the central government.

"I think it's quite possible that in five years we could look back and say Cambodia moved faster than any country in Asia in terms of decentralization," Leiper said.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Patience, Support Needed for Decentralization to Succeed, Experts Say

The new councils must take power within 14 days of when official election results are announced. If all the results are released by Feb 21 as planned, this deadline is March 7.

The new chiefs must call the first council meeting within a month of taking power probably by April 7.

The councils must meet monthly in public. More than half the members must attend a meeting for it to be valid. A majority of the entire council must vote to approve important measures.

Councils may also meet secretly if they follow Ministry of Interior regulations.

Their first order of business should be to draft their own rules of operation. A ministerial instruction includes guidelines and a model for creating these internal rules.

The councils are to arrange for each village to have an elected chief. The Ministry of Interior has not yet issued the procedures for electing these chiefs, or their duties.

The councils will be funded by local tax collection and money from the national government. The National Commune Fund contains $5 million that may be disbursed as soon as Khmer New Year. Procedures for local taxation may take a year to formulate.

Councils' duties include security, public services, economic and social development, and protecting the environment and natural and cultural resources. They also perform administrative tasks and carry out initiatives originating at the national, provincial and district level.

Councils have no authority over forestry, posts and telecommunications, national defense and security, or monetary, foreign or fiscal policy.

By law, the Ministry of Interior can fire a council that does not follow "Government policy," but individual council members cannot be punished for expressing their opinions in meetings.

Readings in Decentralization - Interview with Paul Lundberg on Decentralization: Series Note: 3

Here is an interesting interview with Paul Lundberg on Decentralization published in the Cambodia Daily. The link to the article is here.

People in Power

Translating the Commune Council's New Powers from Paper

By Molly Ball
The Cambodia Daily


Ang Leng, 42, shows off the ink-blackened finger that proves he voted in the Feb 3 commune elections at Toul Tumpong Pagoda in Phnom Penh. While many Cambodians voted enthusiastically for the promises of their local candidates, it is still not clear what the newly elected councils will actually be empowered to do.
Decentralization has become a fashionable political reform around the world, and Cambodia's efforts to move power and authority to the local level make it the next country to join the movement. But in some ways, Cambodia's program is unique.

Paul Lundberg, an expert on local government who has worked in Asia for 20 years, said he has never before seen a governmental structure like Cambodia's, where the national and local governments are elected but everything in between is appointed.
This is inconvenient and could cause problems of authority, said Lundberg, currently lending his expertise to the UN Development Program in Phnom Penh. "If you're going to have local self-government, the provinces and districts have to [also] have elected representation," he said.
Cambodia's system of electing councils based on proportions of party lists is also unique, he said. Most countries, whether their local elections are party-based or not, have local assemblies composed of representatives of smaller parts of the community, such as villages or wards.


Other observers have also criticized Cambodia's new councils for failing to guarantee that the entire commune is represented, fearing one or two powerful or populous villages could dominate a council and look after only their own interests.

But Lundberg said he is impressed with what he's seeing in Cambodia. "What I like about what's going on here, as opposed to all the other places I've been and this may be because the bureaucracy is in sync with the political leaders is that everybody is in line with decentralization," he said.
"Typically, bureaucracies, if they can't stop the process, will sit back and let it fumble. I have not seen any bureaucracy so heavily supportive of decentralization."

Decentralization has swept like a wave over the developing world during the last decade. Some experts deride it as an idea international agencies and donors have latched onto as inherently positive, even though it may not fit everywhere.

Lundberg disagrees. It is always good to move government closer to the population it serves, he said. In addition, "Decentralization fits with a market orientation. In theory, it makes more choices available to people."

Lundberg sees this as its greatest strength. "If you have a state that says, "Thou shalt carry out agricultural programs in this way," there's very limited opportunity to compare that to what might have happened, whereas when decisions are made in different ways in different places, you have a lot more chance of getting it right. And the places that didn't get it right can learn from their neighbors."
Cambodia, too, can learn from its Asian neighbors, Lundberg said.

Nepal underwent a democratic revolution in 1990, going from absolute monarchy to open, multi-party democracy. Two years later, the country held party-based elections for 1,200 village committees.

There was no literacy requirement to run for office. The committees had no training, no systems for administration, and no money from either the central government or their local populations.
But "there was a messy, evolutionary process. People gradually learned to be elected leaders and electors." In 1999, the second round of elections was accompanied by new national laws giving the committees more guidance and resources.

The lesson here, Lundberg said, is don't micro-manage. "There's a strong sense here that Cambodia has to move very fast, and that in order to move very fast they need tightly prescribed systems." But in the first few years, the councils should be allowed to feel their way forward rather than being told exactly what to do.

In the Philippines, which held its first local elections in 1989, 40 percent of the government's internal revenues are allocated directly to local governments. This gives them real authority and autonomy, and as a result, more qualified people are being attracted to local office: "A lot of engineers and doctors and lawyers are running for mayor now."

Here, the key was to let go the purse-strings and send the money where it's needed. Lundberg noted that only 14 percent of Cambodia's national budget is currently spent outside Phnom Penh.

Indonesia does not have elected local governments, and most decisions are made in Jakarta. But funds are allocated to local governments by sector health care, agriculture, road-building, education"so at least it insures that earmarked funds make it out of Jakarta."

China held its first democratic elections for village councils in the early 1990s. "The councils immediately ran smack against the party cadre at the county level, who were not about to let them make decisions that went against the Communist party's dictates." In Thailand, too, a heavy-handed Ministry of Interior maintains tight control over local governments.

In Cambodia, Lundberg said he has met district and provincial governors who "didn't act like they were going to let the communes do anything." It will important to give the communes breathing room.

But only to a point: When Indonesia made its attempt at decentralization, "a number of decisions made in the provinces contravened national laws, and the central government just wasn't strong enough to say no." The new provincial governors took over things they had no legal right to meddle in: dealing with forestry concessions, imposing tariffs for crossing provincial borders.

A balance must be struck between a central government that is too strong and one that is not strong enough, Lundberg said.

And everyone involved must be patient, he said. "In the Philippines, it's interesting to look at how long it took an educated, mobile civil society to have its local government actually doing anything," Lundberg said. "In Nepal, it's interesting to see how long people kept working with local governments that didn't do much for them.

"People here have this idea that if the communes don't do much in their first year, everyone will completely lose faith in the whole idea. I don't think so."